Organ Age Reversal

  by  |  August 29th, 2008  |  Published in All, Animals & Life Science, Health

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For the first time, researchers have prevented the typical age-related decline in a whole organ, allowing old mice to have livers that function as if they were young. This ScienCentral News video reports on a strategy researchers think could lead to treatments for age-related decline in other organs, such as the brain.

[If you cannot see the flash video below, you can click here for a high quality mp4 video.]

Interviewee: Dr. Ana Maria Cuervo, The Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Produced by Sunita Reed — Edited by Sunita Reed & James Eagan
Copyright © ScienCentral, Inc., with additional footage courtesy
Ana Maria Cuervo.

It’s a Dirty Job…

Two old mice, one young liver.Cellular biologist Ana Maria Cuervo and colleague Cong Zhang hold two tiny old white mice that look very much alike. But one of the mice has a liver that looks and functions like that of a very young mouse; the Albert Einstein College of Medicine researchers have found a way to stop age-related decline in an entire organ.

Cuervo says that, just like us, mice accumulate damage to their cells as they grow old, which eventually leads to toxic protein buildup she calls “garbage.” One of the ways cells keep clean is with the help of internal surveillance systems that detect and clean out this cellular refuse. Cuervo and Zhang have given some of these mice an extra copy of the gene that produces these internal garbage detectors, and in this study, they targeted the cells of the liver.

“The most exciting finding is that, when we compare the cells from the young animals to the old animals, we normally find garbage, accumulation of damage, but when we compare this with our animals in which we have added this extra copy of this gene, we found that the cells were clean,” says Cuervo.

Cuervo explains that when mice reach middle age, their cells’ cleaning systems start slowing down, so she decided to turn on the extra gene when the mice reached middle age in order to prevent this decline. When the researchers found that the cells were clean they knew they were on the right track, but wanted to see if the cells and the entire liver functioned better.

Liver function tests showed that the modified old mice did just as well as mice one quarter their age.

“By removing these damaged products, by maintaining the cleaning systems inside the cells, we were able to preserve the function of a whole organ. So if we can do that in the whole body, we hope that we will be able to have very healthy animals and, of course, we’d like to have healthy people even more than healthy animals,” says Cuervo, who is also a physician.

Getting Rusty

A chief source of cellular protein damage is oxidation, which occurs in all cells of our bodies. The “internal garbage detectors” Cuervo targeted are actually antennae-like structures on organelles called lysosomes, which grab onto damaged proteins and pull them inside the lysosome so they can be broken down and recycled.

“Even the typical reactions that you have in your body produce oxidation or damage of proteins, sort of like proteins getting rusty. And your cells eliminate these rusty proteins, and this is what guarantees that your cells work properly and don’t accumulate any kind of garbage,” explains Cuervo.

Future Treatments

But Cuervo does not think gene therapy for the elderly is the answer. She hopes to find compounds that can mimic the results of gene therapy. She is also studying how modified diets can help keep organ function high.

Ultimately, Cuervo would like to try the same strategies to delay age-related brain disorders like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. She points out that people who develop Alzheimer’s disease don’t show symptoms until later in life which could indicate that as people age their brain cells are not able to clean themselves.

When asked if the same strategy can be used to keep skin from looking old, she laughs and says her own mother was proud of her work on keeping organs young, but seemed more curious about skin.

“Maybe there is hope for all of us with wrinkles,” she says with a twinkle in her eyes.

PUBLICATION: Nature Medicine, online early August 10, 2008

RESEARCH FUNDING: National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, an Ellison Medical Foundation Award and a Glenn Foundation Award

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  1. fuzzyleaves says:

    August 30th, 2008 at 11:10 pm (#)

    pretty cool, hope it works on humans… we could live longer XD

  2. Anonymous says:

    August 31st, 2008 at 9:26 pm (#)

    methuselah mouse prize here we come

  3. Jacob says:

    September 1st, 2008 at 7:43 am (#)

    That is all we need more humans running around killing each other GREAT!!!

  4. Organ Age Reversal | Technut News says:

    September 2nd, 2008 at 5:33 am (#)

    [...] source Post a Comment [...]

  5. Kurt L Hanson says:

    September 3rd, 2008 at 8:07 am (#)

    Again, articles such as this begs the question: why is the West the best? For the last fifty or more years and with all the Western money from oil in their possession, why are those “men,” those leaders still maintaining their nations and their populace with medieval thoughts and way of life? How and when will the change for the better take place?

  6. GaryGarver says:

    September 5th, 2008 at 12:26 pm (#)

    Kurt, very good point. I also wonder why this article does not mention how to fix Hammond organs, as mine has been broken for several years.

  7. john says:

    September 10th, 2008 at 2:33 pm (#)

    why do all the stories say stopped or prevented aging they haven't stopped or prevented anything all they did was remove waste from its liver so it would function better how is that comparable to stopping ageing

  8. Ben says:

    September 10th, 2008 at 5:46 pm (#)

    Read the article john. The cells stayed cleaner individually and this led to the whole liver retaining its function much longer. Preventing the reduction of organ function due to aging is about as close to preventing aging as i can see. Your body is just a group of organs… How would you define preventing aging?

  9. Yashal says:

    December 17th, 2008 at 9:16 pm (#)

    interesting,im a little late on it but interesting. MAybe they will eventually find a use on the entire human body. Probably nothing like imortality though

  10. Longevity Malc says:

    December 25th, 2008 at 12:28 pm (#)

    Great science. Cells accumulating rubbish is a major cause of aging which needs to be unraveled.

    This study was effective by influencing the DNA of the mice; however, it establishes the principle, and this sort of treatment will become possible for middle aged mice in time; and then be transferable to humans.


  11. Steve Harold says:

    January 30th, 2009 at 10:23 am (#)

    I just find it incredible and fascinating how science keeps pushing the frontiers of what is possible. I suppose this is all part of wanting to live longer.

  12. Илья says:

    March 10th, 2009 at 7:05 pm (#)

    Занимательно! Надеюсь продолжение будет не менее интересным…

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    August 4th, 2009 at 12:44 pm (#)

    A beacon of light for anyone with the slightest connection to Alzheimer’s disease.

    It is important not to close the door because somwhere out there is light.

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    Fascinating article, and I hope it will benefit people one day. I’m sure there are people with many diseases desparately waiting for research like this to find a cure for them as the previous commentor mentioned.

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